Fitness questions and answers for December 19, 2005

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart ( is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier ( is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT ( is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg ( has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer ( has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel ( is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens ( is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken ( is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his website.

Richard Stern ( is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer ( is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt ( is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow ( has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Saddles for pelvic support Knees and hamstrings Oversize bars and stem Changes in training programme Left inguinal hernia repair rehabilitation Lifecycle workouts More motivation

Saddles for pelvic support

Short background info: (not nearly enough for you)

I'm a 26 year old elite amateur; I've been riding MTB and road for almost ten years. I'm 1.79m, 63 kg, inseam 86.5 cm. I have a rather long lower leg, with tibia and femur being the same length, plus a 15 degree left foot varus and a 5 degree right foot varus. I use size 44 Shimano M221 shoes) with the cleat positioned as far back as it will go. On almost all bikes I've been riding this has resulted in saddle as far forward as it will go, often with a no set-back seatpost.

Back in 2003 I was diagnosed with patella femoral pain that resolved during the transition period but has been "present" ever since. (I found NMES on vastus medialis very helpful, sort of improved my patella tracking) I've been able to avoid it through stretching. I've always had pretty tight ITB and painful piriformis) and my right thigh is somewhat larger then my left - this results in much smoother pedalling from this leg.

I have a history of "always" changing bike setup; what feels good one day feels crap the next. The last two years I've been riding Scott bikes (Scale 10, RC-10 and CR1PRO). This year I've been using the Arione and before that the Aliante saddles for three years. About a year ago I came across the Lemond Lewedge website and felt this could be the solution to my fragile left knee; at first I simply put a round shim around the inner bolt of the left cleat and suddenly I could feel my vastus medialis engaged while pedaling! So this spring I ordered the Lemond kit - I placed one Lewedge on the right shoe and tried both two and three on the left. I used this setup until I got a new pair of orthotic insoles in June. Using the new insoles, three Lewedges felt "too much" and at the same time I felt that the Lewedge ruined the shoe/pedal interface, making it feel unstable, so I removed them.

At the UCI Marathon World Cup 1 Falun, Sweden (my home town) I was aiming for a realistic top 10 finish but thing didn't go as planned. For the first time in my cycling carer I it felt like I was only using my right leg, as my right thigh was burning from lactate and I felt I couldn't use my left; I pulled out after 100 km unable to ride anywhere near my ability. The next day my right leg felt like I had ridden 200 kilometres and my left felt fresh.

I asked them to modify my orthotics to compensate fully for the forefoot varus on both feet with 5mm versus 2.5mm - I road that during the remainder of the season without too many problems. Due to too much lab work I hardly rode at all during November and just started training again; this time on my ergometer. During the first two sessions I again felt that I was using my right leg to a greater extent and this made me decide to get to really try and solve the problem. I went back to your posts on cleat placement and checked where I was today compared with your suggestions. I was roughly 20mm in front of the pedal axle, so I moved the cleat forward about 10mm. This is the first time that I've moved the cleat forward and had a good feeling on the first ride. I had to adjust the cleats a bit more toe out but now it felt really good. At the same time I removed my cycling orthotics and replaced them with the one from my running shoes (not modified for varus). I did a four hour ride without pain and my pedalling felt symmetrical; the only thing I felt was that I was missing a little varus shim on the left shoe.

Now back to my original question - would choosing a particular saddle improve the stability of my pelvis? In that a flat saddle (SLR) would make me drop my hip to a greater extent than an Aliante? Also when shimming for a forefoot varus as great as 15 degrees, like I did with three Lewedges, I feel like I'm creating a leg length discrepancy.

Jens Westergren


Steve Hogg replies


Knees and hamstrings

Dear Steve Hogg

In your last fitness Q & A you wrote the following:

"This in turn means that the calves can get on with what I think is their real job on a road or tri bike, which is to contract eccentrically in concert with the hamstrings doing the same during the pedal downstroke. Both calves and hammies cross the knee joint. Working together eccentrically, the net effect is to pull the knee backwards."

I have some concerns with the biomechanical principles that you have addressed in this statement. Both of these muscle groups that you are speaking of cross two joints, the gastrocnemius crosses the talocrural joint and the knee joint. At the talocrural jt the gastrocs performs planter flexion and at the knee it works concentrically to create flexion. Two muscles of the hamstrings cross two joints the third only one. All three muscles can flex the knee, semimembranosus and semitendinosus work concentrically to extend the hip. If the talocrural jt and hip joint were completely stabilized (which is not the case during a pedal stroke) they would work together to pull the knee into flexion. This is of course obvious, however you have commented on the eccentric qualities of these muscles. Eccentric contractions are by definition the resistance by a muscle against lengthening. Eccentric contractions do not perform positive work, they perform negative work. It is not possible to accelerate a joint using an eccentric contraction only decelerate a joint. So in the case of the gastrocnemius if this muscle is working eccentrically it is preventing lengthening, i.e dorsiflexion of the talocrural and extension of the knee. If the semimembranosus and tendinosus are working eccentrically they are preventing flexion of the hip and extension of the knee. This is contrary to what you have written in the attached statement.

To complicate things further during the power stroke (downward) the hamstrings' two joints are performing incompatible movements. The hip is extending which shortens the hamstrings, while the knee is extending which lengthens the hamstrings. Unfortunately the hamstring or any two joint muscle can not concentrically contract within one section and eccentrically contract at the other. If the hamstring is activated powerfully eccentrically at this time it would prevent extension at the knee.

With the same line of thinking an eccentric contraction of the gastrocs would pull the knee into flexion, or more importantly work as an antagonist against the contracting quads which are creating extension.

The movements going on during a pedal stroke are inherently complex due to the many multi joint muscles working together along with all the stabilizers and I have certainly not even brushed the surface of there relationships. To summarise my concerns would be to say that your statement suggests that eccentric contractions can create a moment that produces movement (in this case extension at the knee), but this is not true as eccentric contractions produce a moment that slows down a movement. So as stated if the calves and hamstring worked eccentrically together they could not possibly produce an extension moment but would prevent an extension movement.

On the other hand if a concentric contraction of both muscles were to occur with perfect timing and force this would create a moment that would lead to extension. I included a very primitive vector diagram to illustrate this point. When the force vectors of the two muscles are broken down to their two components one can see that the x axis vectors can negate each other while the y axis can combine to create extension. This occurs with a concentric contraction (the muscles are creating force to shorten) contraction. If I am way off here set me straight.

Joe Brassard

Steve Hogg replies


Oversize bars and stem

Not strictly a fitness question I know, but just wondered if anyone could help me with this dilemma, here goes: I need a shorter stem for my race bike. I want to use my current bars, which are Deda, these have a diameter of Ø31.7mm.

The bore of the stem I have my eye on is Ø31.8; I realise this is only a tiny difference, but I'm concerned this will force the bars into an unnatural shape when clamped in the stem, resulting in stressing the aluminium and could result in a fracture of the bars (usually when you least want it - bunch sprints, descent, etc!)

What do you think? Has any one else used Ø31.7 bars in an Ø31.8 stem. Or do you think the difference is such a small amount it won't matter, that there will be enough 'give' in the stem and bar to take up the difference in diameter/shape?

I don't know what tolerances they make bars to, but I doubt they can draw bars to less than ±0.1mm on diameter. Therefore meaning the stem should be fine, but some confirmation would be good. I'm a design engineer by trade, so I'm very conscious of stressing materials, particularly aluminium, in a way they're not meant to be stressed and ensuring correct fit.

Matt Eastwood

Steve Hogg replies


Scott Saifer replies


Changes in training programme

I am a 42 year old cyclist and have been riding and racing for the past 20 years. I usually try to do a weight training programme every year that includes three days in the gym in the off season and transition to one maintenance day during the spring and summer months. My question is should I take a day off from the gym when my legs are still very sore from the previous workout? I am finding as I get older it takes about 72 hours to recover from a lifting session. Does this mean I should cut back to two days in the gym or should I just tough it out and dream of better days on the road?

Perry Fields

Ric Stern replies


Left inguinal hernia repair rehabilitation


I would like some advice on rehabilition from a left inguinal hernia repair I had on 25 November 2005.

I am 49 years old (male), ride on average 300km to 350km per week - three faster group rides and four rides by myself. My max heart rate is 198. I use a Polar 725 heart rate monitor with cadence.

Any comments & advice you can give would be helpful; things like when should I get on the bike, and what type of training (how hard, how long)?

Graeme McNeill

Kelby Bethards replies


Lifecycle workouts

I'm a 48 year old Masters rider, who's had some success in cyclocross, time trials and the occasional triathlon, with a 40km time trial best time of just under an hour or so. I used to be a very good triathlete, until injuries severely limited my running. Now I ride about 800-1000 miles a month from April - October and about 400-600 the rest of the year; many of those miles are to and from work from April through October. I also run twice per week and swim twice per week for 30 minutes each, and lift weights twice per week.

In the winter I spend a lot of time during the week at lunch on a health club lifecycle, with workouts lasting 45-60 minutes. Are you familiar with this apparatus? Does it translate well to cycling fitness/performance? If I switch it on to the race mode, it seems to give a reasonably accurate measure of watts. Do you believe this to be true? With a goal of improving my time trialling, what sorts of workouts should I do on the lifecycle during the week, when I can't get outdoors or on my home trainer due to my work schedule? I've never been very strict at following a schedule, especially during the summer when it seems I just want to be out riding rather than following a schedule. Thanks for the advice, I've found your column to be rich in good information.

Brian Leverenz

Dave Palese replies


More motivation

This relates to the December 12 posting about motivation


I cannot believe your response. Thank you so much. I have set one goal for this upcoming season: the Excel Stage Race (second week of May). That's where I want to be at my best. So, from what I gathered from your reply is that I should set minor goals along the way. Thing is, which goals do I establish? For instance, go to the gym 3 times a week, run once a week, etc.? What goals can I set to know that I am on the right track? I data from aerobic TT's on my trainer. Is that a good goal setting device (i.e. to lower the times or go longer at similar HR's)? What are some other good goals to set along the way to May?

One thing I am confused about is your recommendation about intervals. From what I thought, intervals were not really to be done at this time of year; concentration on lower to moderate intensity stuff keeping HR below 85% of max. I have been doing isolated leg stuff, but I am burnt on it. It's the same for spin-ups, too. I mean, how can you use variety for those "recommended" exercises for this time of year?

Thank you again for such a great reply. I did not expect that. Hopefully, we'll be in touch soon.

Shaun Riebl

Dave Palese replies


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